Builder apprentices training
Earl and Calam Design and Build Ltd have been an FMB member for a few years and and decided to get involved with tackling the skills and labour issue in the industry.


London Hub Director Sam Eden caught up with FMB member Nik Nelberg from Earl and Calam Design and Build Ltd to discuss the work he has been doing with Croydon College.

Q1 – What is your connection to the FMB?

We are a residential south London local building company. [We had] been an FMB member for a few years and a while ago decided we need to get involved and help sort out the skills and labour issue in the industry. We didn’t know where to start and were getting more disheartened and stressed by the impact the skills crisis was having on our business. As a quality builder not having quality staff is a problem. With the help of the FMB introducing us to Croydon College and the South London Partnership we have made connections and are now growing our business and putting the skills back in by training new people.

Q2 – What kind of work have you been doing with Croydon College?

We went to Croydon College with fellow member David Gutierrez and did a demonstration of building skills, bricklaying and retrofit. It was great to meet people from the college as they were keen to know how they could improve their courses to deliver the skills that we need. It was plane to see that the builders and trades need to do more to show young people what a great career you can have in construction and motivate the right sort of people to engage and start training. For us to also support students and upskill them not just in trade skills, but also the skills needed to be commercial and support a business. We met Stuart who is one of the carpentry teachers and through this connection we were introduced to a group of Level 1 students and did a presentation on one of our builds. Then this year, we have taken 5 students, 1 a week, for work experience as part of their course. They were a mixed bunch but they all got a better understanding of what it’s like on site. Also 2 of the 5 had great potential and were a good fit for our business and we are interviewing them for our next year’s carpentry apprenticeship.

Q3 – What benefits are there for members to take on work experience students?

The grumpy old builder in us has resisted letting students do work experience as we were worried about their safety and wasting our time looking after them. It couldn’t have been further from the truth. It was great to be able to let these students experience our world so some of them could get the bug. It’s also a great connection with the local community which we are building on. And we have the possibility of new staff trained how we want them to be, by taking on an apprentice.

Q4 – Have you been able to get an apprentice yourself?

We really struggled to find an apprentice for years as we were nervous that it would cost the company money. We were worried that we would train them only for them to leave straight away for more money. Again, a change in our thinking let us put one of our labourers through a level 2 carpentry apprenticeship at Croydon College. He’s just passed, and we have learnt how to keep him with us and it’s been brilliant for our business. This is why we are looking for our next apprentice, who hopefully we have found. We will know in a few weeks. Super excited seeing a supportive team building within our business.

Q5 – Croydon college need donations for prizes. How can the FMB help?

Stuart is such a diamond and wanting to engage with builders and trades and also motivate and incentivise his students, he asked us to see if the FMB could ask local builders to donate some items for him to reward his students with. We are going to give some levels and basic hand tools. I am trying to get some donations for the students as prizes for the hard work. I was hoping for new tools or vouchers for tools. Nothing fancy, it could be tape measures, levels, chisels, or anything you have that you have never used, and is in the way collecting dust.

Any questions?

Contact Sam Eden, London Director on 020 7025 2903 or send an email.

Email Sam Eden



Sam Eden

Sam Eden

London Director, Federation of Master Builders

Sam brings his vast experience working within the energy and finance sectors, most recently working for the Architecture Registration Board. At the FMB Sam’s responsibilities cover membership engagement, public affairs, media relations, events and governance but predominantly he is the representative for FMB members within the capital and greater London working with policy makers and stakeholders to ensure SME builders are represented.